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Clopidogrel Desensitization: Background and Recommendations for Use of a Rapid (4 Hour) Protocol

[ Vol. 17 , Issue. 2 ]


Jeffrey Bulva and Ronald A. Simon*   Pages 113 - 118 ( 6 )


The purpose of this section is to educate the reader on how to successfully manage patients with a hypersensitivity reaction to clopidogrel using desensitization protocol based on various published protocols. Additionally, we will define drug desensitization, and describe the possible mechanism of how desensitization may function as alternative medication. The indications/contraindications for desensitization will be reviewed. The different published clopidogrel desensitization protocols will be discussed. Based on those protocols, we recommend a protocol we feel is safe and efficacious.

Clopidogrel is a thienopyridine antiplatelet drug widely used for treatment and also employed for secondary prevention regarding a range of cardiovascular diseases. However, it has been reported to cause hypersensitivity reactions. Ticlopidine is an alternative medication that can be considered when patients have an allergic reaction to clopidogrel. Additionally, ticlopidine is associated with increased risk causing potentially life-threatening adverse reactions to include: Aplastic anemia, reversible neutropenia, and thrombotic thrombocytopenia purpura vs. clopidogrel. Thus, clopidogrel desensitization offers an attractive alternative.

Drug desensitization is defined as causing a temporary state of tolerance to a specific medication responsible for a hypersensitivity reaction. Furthermore, drug desensitization can only be maintained by continuous administration of this drug.

Discussion: The exact immunologically mediated mechanism of how rapid oral desensitization works is not fully understood and yet to be defined. Ultimately desensitization results in causing antigen-specific mast cell tolerance. Various protocols have been published. The length of desensitization ranged from 2 h using 9 doses to 7 h using 15 doses.

Recommendations: Taking the above into account, we recommend using a modification to the protocol that has the largest number of patients to undergo a standardized clopidogrel desensitization. This approach is shorter, as time has immense importance for these patients. Dosing starts at 10 mg dose and with 60 min intervals between doses, this now becomes a 4 h desensitization protocol.


Rapid (4 Hour) protocol, clopidogrel desensitization, hypersensitivity reaction, alternative medication, drug desensitization, allergy.


Department of Allergy and Immunology, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Augusta GA 30912, Department of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, Scripps Clinic and Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 92130

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